The country’s largest health union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has condemned new laws which silence nurses, midwives and other health professionals who speak about the poor conditions in detention centres.
ANMF Federal Secretary, Lee Thomas, said it was outrageous that the Australian Border Force Act, effective from today, can result in a two-year jail sentence for nurses, midwives and other health professionals who publically highlight their concerns about detention centres without the express permission of the Immigration Minister.
“We’re horrified the Government is using this new Law to prevent the Australian public from knowing what really goes on inside detention centres by trying to silence nurses and other health professionals who work there,” she said.
“Health professionals have a duty of care to the people for whom they care and ensuring the best care and conditions for providing that care, is an important feature of the role.
“Only last week at the ANMF’s Victorian Delegates’ Conference, a Registered Nurse spoke passionately of her time treating refugees on Nauru. She told of the deplorable conditions she encountered on the island – tropical heat and rain, rats, unsanitary conditions, the lack of privacy and the poor mental health of detainees.
“The ANMF believes Australia has a moral and legal obligation to treat every human being compassionately and with respect, courtesy and consideration irrespective of the place of treatment.
“It’s important that nurses working in detention centres are allowed to meet their Codes of Ethics and Professional Practice Standards in the provision of proper, basic health care and not be working under the fear that they themselves could be jailed for trying to deliver proper, basic health services.”
The ANMF has written to Minister Dutton’s office urgently seeking clarification on the obligations of nurses and midwives working in detention facilities and their mandatory reporting obligations for children and other patients.